Summit to promote connections among industry sectors

Sarah Shrader
Sarah Shrader

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Sarah Shrader draws on personal experiences in discussing the connections among the manufacturing, outdoor recreation and tech sectors in the Grand Valley.

The zipline and adventure course  company Shrader helps manage could be located anywhere, but operates in Grand Junction in large part because of the local fabrication firms that supply parts, she said.

“It’s been a great partnership,” said Shrader, chief administrative officer and co-owner of Bonsai Design.

Promoting additional connections will strengthen and diversify the local economy, said Shrader, who also helped found the Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition.

An upcoming meeting in Grand Junction is expected to do just that in bringing together people working in manufacturing, outdoor recreation and tech for networking, panel discussions, presentations and product showcase.

“We’re trying to bring the three sectors together,” said Justin Hemmer, owner of Hammerhead Painting Services in Grand Junction and chairman of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance West Chapter.

CAMA West has scheduled what’s billed as the 2017 Fuse Summit for Feb. 23 and 24 in Grand Junction. The trade association hopes to attract not only manufacturers, but also outdoor recreation and tech firms to the event.

Admission is $49 for members of CAMA, the Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition and Launch West CO, a group for software developers, designers and other entrepreneurs. Admission is $79 for non-member manufacturers and $149 for non-member service providers. Tables for six also are available. For tickets or more information, visit the website located at

The summit is set to begin at 5 p.m. Feb. 23 with an event at Enstrom Candies,  701 Colorado Ave. The event will include networking and a tour of the operation, Hemmer said.

The summit will continue at 8:30 a.m Feb. 24 at the Colorado Mesa University Center with a product showcase and breakfast. A panel discussion will explore collaborations among the manufacturing, outdoor recreation and tech sectors.

At 10:30 a.m., breakout sessions will focus on each of the sectors. The session on manufacturing will feature Andrew Golike, general manager of CoorsTek in Grand Junction. The session on outdoor recreation will feature Shrader. The session on technology and startups will feature Drura Parrish, founder and chief executive officer of MakeTime.

The luncheon keynote presentation will feature Steve Wood, former president and chief executive officer of the Capco defense contractor in Grand Junction.

Hemmer said the upcoming CAMA West summit was expanded beyond the manufacturing sector to foster more collaboration among members of the manufacturing group, outdoor recreation coalition and technology group and, more broadly, those sectors. The summit could help to strengthen what are already strong ties among the sectors, he said.

For example, CAMA plans to soon open what it calls a Fuse Impact Center at the Factory, a coworking space Launch West Co opened in downtown Grand Junction. The center will provide monitors, computers and other equipment to conduct video conferences and share information.

Hemmer said the center will help area manufacturers in connecting them with other manufacturers and customers without the need to travel to Denver or other locations. But the center also could help in bringing more business — and perhaps businesses themselves — to Western Colorado.

Brian Watson, co-founder of Launch West CO, said membership in the group has increased to 500 even as the technology sector has grown.

Technology applies in one way or another to most businesses and industry sectors, Watson said, and there’s considerable local crossover. He cited as one example mountain bike videos produced for fitness classes.

Shrader said outdoor recreation businesses and tourism contribute more than $300 million annually to the local economy and account for more than 2,000 jobs. Moreover, the benefits of the outdoor recreation sector extend to other sectors, she said.

Bonsai Design designs and installs projects specifically for outdoor recreation, including ziplines, challenge courses and canopy tours. In the process, the company has developed metal and plastic products that are fabricated by local manufacturers.

Efforts to promote the manufacturing, outdoor recreation and tech sectors will help in not only creating and attracting more businesses and jobs to Mesa County, Shrader said, but also diversifying an economy that’s long depended on an energy sector prone to cyclical markets. “We really need to focus on diversifying.”